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Jim Bennett

from 56; a life in pieces - download the full text here  56; A LIFE IN PIECES  (2008)






Growing up



1      1952     The fall of Empire

2      1953     The Broken Vase       

3      1954     Enforced emigration

4      1955     Skylon

5      1956     Mothers Union

6      1957     Aunty May

7      1958     The lion in Chester Zoo

8      1959     Secret signs

9      1960     Watching

10    1961     The funeral

11    1962     Cuban Misile Crisis

12    1963     The bomb crater

13    1964     The sound of splashing water






arthritic branches

reach down

into the river


fish refract

lying safe in the

quiet shallows


out in the white water

is the flotsam

of Empire


the Union Flag

driven by the wind

churns into rags





in a gray world

an abandond

broken vase

is mended



it will not hold water

but it is kept

and loved


in this way

it has a purpose

and brings colour

into the world.







the servents

rose up

came at night

took the children

and sent them

packed with lies

to Australia


“Your parents are dead”

“They don’t want you

any more”

“it’s a great life”


the children

thought it was

a bus ride away

a trip on the ferry

but it wasn’t


pinned with paper labels

a cardboard


carried their hopes

to a continent

a world away





anchored to the table top

the red metal sheet

twisted into a cylinder

held together by nuts

and bolts


the Mechano skylon

from a distance

looked something like

the real thing


after a while

it was taken apart

the bits used

in other things

the sheet

that was bent

out of shape

is disguarded


the Mechano skylon

becomes a memory

just like the real thing





the Mothers Union


and nitpicks

black hills

golden fields

and questions

“Is he your son?”

“is this the one you adopted?.”

but she

clung to her membership

like a badge

and often whispered

“you are so special

because we picked you.”


so they went

mother and son on

sandcastle afternoons

train trips to New Brighton

in summers that went

on and on and on





a forgotten aunt

turned up one day

pushing a handcart

with all her possessions


for nights she sat crying

talking in an adult

whispered voice

sleeping in her sisters bed


then she stopped crying

started laughing

and smiling

populating the house

with holy pictures

and statues

of grim faced saints


dark shadows that

stood guard over her

at night


after she died they were

given to a church

a few days later

they were seen in a skip

in the church car park





in Chester Zoo

the lion paces

round its enclosure

wearing a path

through the grass

close to the fence


its eyes hunt

across a thousand miles

its heart races in the chase

its fur feels the fire

of the sun

as its feet wears a path

through the grass

as it turns

round and round

close to the fence


people watch

subdued greatness

captive in a cage

they walk off

their feet following

a path close to

a fence





the curl of cloud

like whisp of smoke

from a far off bonfire


secret signs

around each corner


the world

that everyone

seems to understand

as they talk in code





it is misunderstood

when so many

parts are missing


writing now starts

to push open a door

as the words seek to

make sense of it




birds flock

over the sycamores

swoop and drill

through clouds of



high in the branches

in a world of

their own

other dirds nest

and call


watched by

a football team reject

left standing on the


to daydream




in the green vase

yellow and white

silk flower heads droop

cast a shadow

across the dining table


the dust shows in the light

obvious when you know

hanging like forgoten words

as bright as anger


parachuting onto the

polished oak

dulling it coating it

in dead skin


the undertaker arrives

shoes polished

you can see your face

in the toecap

handkerchief folded

into tiny red mountain peaks

protrudes from his breast pocket

the long black coat

sweeps down the hall

leaving the air behind him

smelling like

a flower shop





encircled world

choked and breathless

as if the next breath

or heart beat

will not come


this is it

the final act of foolishness

the warmongers

knock their arrows into place

fingers twiching

eyes locked

waiting for someone

to blink


the rest waiting to be

boiled burned or fried alive

the best advice

whitewash the windows

to reflect the flash

and sit under a stout table

to stop being crushed

when the roof falls in




long wings stretch

grasp the air



but here

the slap of tyre on tarmac

the smell of chips

shouts and bellows


broken bottles

wall splattered

blood and graffiti



play football

in a crater


around them

gulls clamour

looking for the thermal





Why not? Why not follow?

down to the valley

beside the deep still water


strip swim drinking in the coolness

the noise of children

the sounds of splashing water

why not follow?

why not?


"It's not for you."

a voice says

sit listen gather up

the sounds

and later write about

the furious pleasure

of youth